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Border & Immigration

Bipartisan Spending Bill Commits Over $1 Billion To Border Wall Construction

President Trump tours a section of the southern border wall in 2019, in Otay Mesa, Calif.
Evan Vucci AP
President Trump tours a section of the southern border wall in 2019, in Otay Mesa, Calif.

Since the start of the Trump administration, new border wall and border wall replacements have stretched across San Diego County. All the while, local Democratic politicians have criticized the border wall, saying it doesn’t keep people safe, and pushes people determined to cross the border to do so in dangerous and isolated areas.

But last month, Congress approved over $1 billion for border wall funding. The spending bill, which included other provisions like pandemic relief, was passed with the votes of all of San Diego’s Democratic congressional delegation.

Bipartisan Spending Bill Commits Over $1 Billion To Border Wall Construction
Listen to this story by Max Rivlin-Nadler.

“Honestly it did not surprise me, given that we’ve seen bipartisan support for border wall funding and infrastructure in prior administrations,” said Pedro Rios, the director of the American Friends Service Committee's U.S.-Mexico Border Program.

Video: Bipartisan Stimulus Bill Commits Over A Billion Dollars To Border Wall Construction

Rios says that while president-elect Joe Biden has pledged to not build any more border wall, that doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t follow through on existing contracts or find other ways to spend money on border barriers, including replacing existing border wall.

"I think it’s important for people to understand that when they’re talking about border wall replacement, it’s actually an extremely devastating type of replacement that’s been done,” Rios explained. “Oftentimes what are being replaced are Normandy border barriers, which are very short and meant to stop vehicles, with thirty-foot-tall bollard-style fencing that would be catastrophic to the environment. And not only devastating to the environment but also to people that live in the area.”

The Biden transition team has told KPBS that it would rescind the national emergency along the southern border. That national emergency declaration has allowed the Trump administration to bypass lengthy cultural heritage and environmental reviews to expedite border wall construction.

RELATED: Border Patrol Rushing To Build New 30-Foot Barriers At Friendship Park

Rios says that regardless of whether you’re in support or opposition to more border wall, these reviews allow for border communities to have their say on decisions they’ll be living with for a long time.

“Looking at how that fast-tracking circumvents a law, it doesn’t do justice to any sort of due-process,” he said. “And it really undermines constitutional protections that border communities have, who are seeing Border Wall construction in their backyards.”

A proposed border wall replacement project in San Ysidro is set to begin in the coming weeks, unless the incoming Biden administration intervenes first. On Tuesday, Customs and Border Protection’s acting commissioner Mark Morgan said that the outgoing administration aims to lock in as many border wall contracts as possible, to make the process for the Biden administration more complicated if they aim to undo them.